England overcame a five-point half-time deficit to claim a 35-15 victory over Japan at Twickenham on Saturday.
‘Go to the temple and pray. Just pray, it’s the best thing. We’re going to be absolutely ruthless. If I was Japan, I’d be worried. We want to smash them, physically smash them.’
That was the warning Eddie Jones fired at Japan earlier in the week. But when his side trailed 15-10 in the 53rd minute, the England coach would have been worried. In the end, though, his second-stringers got their act together and the job done.
Japan, who famously upset the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup, were excellent in the first half but faded away in the second and could not add to their tally. By contrast, England chalked up 25 unanswered points in the second stanza, including three tries.
England opened the scoring in the third minute when Danny Care finished off a lethal counter-attack that was started by Elliot Daly.
Japan then scored 10 unanswered points to take a surprising lead. Yu Tamura opened their account with a penalty before Ryoto Nakamura stepped over the tryline from close quarters.
Daly levelled matters with a long-range penalty kick, but Brave Blossoms captain Michael Leitch darted through the England defence for the visitors’ second try and a 15-10 lead at the break.
The visitors’ brave defensive effort continued after the restart. But just as the prospect of another shock Japanese victory threatened to become a reality, tensions inside Twickenham were relieved as England took the fight to them and came out on top.
Mark Wilson, Joe Cokanasiga and Dylan Hartley went over for tries to swing the result England’s way, while stand-in captain George Ford slotted two conversions and two penalties to complete the comeback.
England – Tries: Danny Care, Mark Wilson, Joe Cokanasiga, Dylan Hartley. Conversions: George Ford (3). Penalties: Elliot Daly, Ford (2).
Japan – Tries: Ryoto Nakamura, Michael Leitch. Conversion: Yu Tamura. Penalty: Tamura.
England – 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Alex Lozowski, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Danny Care, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Mark Wilson, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jamie George, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Subs: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Ted Hill, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Henry Slade.
Japan – 15 Willam Tupou, 14 Akihito Yamada, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Masakatsu Nishikawa, 6 Michael Leitch (c), 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Wimpie van der Walt, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Keita Inagaki.
Subs: 16 Yusuke Niwai, 17 Koki Yamamoto, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Samuela Anise, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 22 Yutaka Nagare, 23 Rikiya Matsuda.